The Republican Schism

There is a data set within yesterday’s CNN poll that even CNN largely overlooked, but that explains so much of the current tension within the Republican Party.


Long after we are dead, pundits and political reporters will still talk about the Rockefeller Republicans vs. the Conservatives and other such archaic divisions that no longer exist except in the rhetorical habits of pretentious political reporters. The real division within the Republican Party now isn’t even between those who call themselves tea partiers fighting the establishment. “Tea party”, like “conservative” and “Republican”, has less meaning these days and I increasingly dislike using the word. Admittedly though, everyone would consider me one based on the general parameters of what the tea party is.

In any event, the real fight within the Republican Party now is between those who believe we actually are at the moment of crisis — existential or otherwise — and thereby must fight as we’ve never fought before and those who think the GOP can bide its time and make things right.

At this moment, this boils down to a fight largely between Main Street and the K Street/Wall Street Alliance within the GOP. This gets us back to the CNN poll and the data set even CNN really missed.

CNN asked, “Do you think it is good for the country or bad for the country that the Republican Party is in control of the U.S. House of Representatives?” 54% say it is bad for the country. The polling is among all adults. With registered voters the number is 52%. With likely voters it would probably be a 50-50 proposition. The follow up question was not whether the public would prefer the Democrats to be in charge, but “If you had to choose, would you rather see John Boehner remain as Speaker of the House, or would you rather see Boehner replaced as Speaker by another Republican?” 63% of adult Americans would like him replaced.


Go into the subsets for far more interesting numbers.

One-third of self-described conservatives think it is bad for the country that the GOP is in charge of the House of Representatives compared to only 14% of people self-identified as supporting the tea party. 55% of conservatives want John Boehner replaced by another Republican. 60% of those who support the tea party want Boehner replaced.

While the margin of error goes up significantly in the subsets, this is a pretty consistent finding and one that complicates a lot of reporting about voter angst and anger toward the GOP. A lot of conservatives are angry at the GOP too. They want a Republican Party willing to fight They are gravitating toward candidates and third parties willing to fight and eschewing those who are too establishmentarian.

Add in another poll. Almost half of Americans want every member of Congress replaced. “Among Republicans and Republican leaners, a 52% majority say Congress would be better off if most of the current members were replaced,” USA Today reports. Likewise, a recent Pew survey showed that roughly a third of Americans want their own member of Congress replaced. Usually the polling shows people want congressmen replaced, but they like their own congressmen. Now, at its highest level in a very long time, people want their own congressman replaced too.

While all the polling suggests a very real anti-establishmentarian mood in the country and within the GOP, small donors are gravitating toward conservative groups willing to fight. Heritage Action for American, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project, etc. are all seeing small donors and activists gravitating to them. As attacks on these groups intensify from Republicans in Washington, their support from the grassroots correspondingly intensifies.


This is shaping up to be a more destructive primary season for the GOP Establishment than either 2010 or 2012. Making it even more brutal, the Chamber of Commerce and large corporatist donors are teaming up to help the Establishment. With a base already feeling ignored by the K Street/Wall Street alliance whispering in the Establishment’s ear, the Chamber and large donor support of Establishment candidates will just give the base and conservatives more fodder for attacks.

Ultimately though, and this is the key everybody is missing, we have arrived at this point because the leadership of the party has fundraised off its opposition to Obamacare in two campaign cycles, but has never aggressively sought to oppose it legislatively.

There will be hell to pay because of it.


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